Almost half of “majestic” trees that were due to be cut down by HS2 have been saved.

Protestors joined forces with Buckinghamshire Council and the Chilterns Conservation Board to save the trees, in Leather Lane, Great Missenden, which were set to be felled to make way for an HS2 access road being built off the A413, between Great Missenden and Wendover.

Last month, revised designs came to light for Leather Lane, an ancient ‘holloway’ and a deep, V-shaped track, flanked by wildlife-rich hedges and trees, which has been used by residents for thousands of years.

Bucks Council said despite the Chilterns’ ‘holloways’ featuring in the detailed design principles – which HS2 must adhere to – the latest engineering led designs showed that HS2 Ltd was planning to cut down significant numbers of mature trees along the length of the existing Leather Lane, and “destroy” parts of the ancient trackway.

The council, along with the Chilterns Conservation Board, met with HS2 Ltd’s designers EKFB to challenge them to review and modify their plans.

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The firm has now said it will keep more than 40 per cent of the trees in Leather Lane.

It comes after more than 40,000 people signed a petition to stop HS2 felling the trees in Leather Lane.

Ian Thompson, Buckinghamshire Council’s corporate director for planning, growth and sustainability said: “The council has always fundamentally opposed the construction of HS2, we fought the proposals through every stage.

“Not only do we disagree with the strategic case for the line, but most of all because of the devastating environmental damage and consequent impact on local communities.

“Since construction started in earnest last Autumn, our worst fears have been realised and we are seeing the beautiful Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty ripped apart, losing swathes of vegetation, trees and ecological habitats.

“We were assured that extra compensations would be made to protect the wildlife and woodland at these environmentally sensitive worksites, one of which is Leather Lane, and we are challenging HS2 Ltd to provide us with evidence that the necessary environmental safeguards have been put in place.

“Regrettably, due to the HS2 Act, our overall influence and control is limited on much of the HS2 scheme, but we are working with the Chilterns Conservation Board and other partners to hold HS2 to account for their actions and I’d like to assure residents that we are doing all we can using the powers we have.”

The council cannot refuse work that has been allowed under the HS2 Act, but it can refuse the details of those works.

Dr Elaine King, CEO of the Chilterns Conservation Board said: “HS2 Ltd has had many years to plan and deliver what is now the country's largest major infrastructure project.

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“The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a nationally protected landscape and we expect to see clear and consistent evidence that HS2 Ltd is treating it with the care and respect it deserves.”

HS2 said the trees were not just being removed for temporary works or an access road, but that they needed to be cut down for the permanent works.

A spokesman said: “HS2 always works hard to reduce our impact on the environment and we are pleased to confirm that we have been able to retain more than 40 per cent of the trees on Leather Lane.

“We are also reducing construction traffic on local roads by building a new access road and permanently realigning the lane across a new bridge, helping communities to stay connected.

“The construction of HS2 is playing a vital role in Britain’s economic recovery from Covid-19, with over 15,000 people already working on the project and tens of thousands of additional jobs supported through our supply chain.

“By providing a cleaner, greener way to travel, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s push to reduce carbon emissions.”